[Freedombox-discuss] Unforgivable Hacks for AGPL Compliance

Bradley M. Kuhn bkuhn at ebb.org
Tue Apr 30 15:15:12 UTC 2013

Nick Daly wrote at 23:26 (EDT) on Monday:

> I'd also like to help build social norms and shortcuts that allow
>people to say, "if you do X (where X is discrete, clear, and hopefully,
>simple), then you've satisfied the license's requirements."

It's no more possible to say this with Affero GPL than it is with GPL or
most other copyleft licenses.

Correct CCS is complicated and requires judgment calls.  "The preferred
form of the work for making modifications to it" is something a software
developer has to determine in their professional judgment.  While a
developer can run various tests to see whether "the source code" can be
used "to generate, install, and ... run the object code and to modify
the work", determining whether the included "scripts to control those
activities" are adequate is again, a judgment call (quotes are from the
text of AGPLv3).

I tend to say: "if you work entirely upstream and release all your
software as Free Software, compliance with all the Free Software
licenses is easy".  That's the only case where I know it's dead-simple
to comply with copyleft.  If you want to keep some stuff proprietary --
or "non-released to your users", in the Affero GPL case -- you're going
to have work to do ensuring compliance.

Meanwhile, the FUD we hear against Affero GPL is almost exactly the same
as the GPL FUD that I heard when I first got started in Free Software in
the early 1990s, right on through to the "unAmerican cancerous virus"
campaign in 2001.  The GPL was successful, and accepted as a norm,
almost completely because there were codebases (GCC, Linux, etc.) that
were *so* useful that copyleft haters chose to live with copyleft
requirements -- whatever they might be -- rather than write new code
from scratch.

I've told cwebber many times that such codebases just don't exist yet
for Affero GPL, and that's the root of all the so-called "I don't
understand how to comply with Affero GPL" problems.  I hope GNU
Mediagoblin will be the codebase that changes all that, and I know
cwebber is doing his best to make it happen.  What GNU did so right
initially was to not just write a great license that protected software
freedom but also made sure great and essential code was written that
used that license.  I'm glad to see Mediagoblin continuing in that
   -- bkuhn

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